Category Archives: Uncategorized

WisDOT Town Hall April 16 in Eau Claire

WisDOT’s traveling “Town Hall” meeting, “Transportation Moves Wisconsin,” comes to West Central Wisconsin this Wednesday evening with a session at UW-Eau Claire.

Transportation Moves Wisconsin
Wednesday, April 16, 5:00-6:30 p.m.
University of Wisconsin Eau Claire
Centennial Hall (new Education Building), Room 1614
Park Avenue at McKinley street, Eau Claire 54701

You are strongly encouraged to attend to provide input into our state’s transportation planning and funding priorities for the future. Here’s what to expect:

5:00-5:30 p.m. Open House format; tables, displays and a chance to talk with WisDOT staff
5:30-6:00 p.m. Presentation by WisDOT Secretary Mark Gottlieb
6:00-6:30 p.m. Q&A session with the Secretary

As a participant, you’ll also have the opportunity to submit a Comment Form about the state’s transportation priorities. This is an important opportunity to tell WisDOT if you believe passenger trains and other public transportation alternatives are important to our area of the state, and how you would actually use them.

The Rail Coalition believes participating in this process is very important. So, we will not be having a regular Coalition meeting in April and are strongly encouraging you to attend the Eau Claire Town Hall.


LaHood: DOT is not just about roads and bridges anymore. It’s about a comprehensive view of transportation.

“The people are way ahead of some of these politicians, and have been. It’ll be up to common, ordinary citizens to convince their leaders — whether it be mayors or governors or members of Congress — that a vision for transportation is not restricted to just roads and bridges. It has to be a wide, broad view of many alternatives.” — Outgoing Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in an interview with Streetsblog. See more on this and other relevant news on our Facebook page. Also follow us on Twitter

Owen Ayres 1925-2012

West Central Wisconsin Rail Coalition Co-Chair, Owen Ayres, died on July 21 at the age of 87. Founder of the national engineering consulting firm, Ayres & Associates, he was also a former Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.

Bill Anderson, Rail Coalition Steering Committee Member, knew Owen well and penned the following tribute:

“On behalf of the members and friends of the West Central Wisconsin Rail Coalition, we want to express our deepest sympathy to his family on his passing. To a person, we sincerely appreciate the wisdom and guidance Owen has contributed to the Coalition’s considerable success over the past 13 years as our Co-Chairman.

The formation of the WCWRC is largely due to Owen’s desire to do all things Eau Claire. He understood what our previous train service meant to the community, and he traveled on it frequently, but he also had the foresight to see how important it will again be as our travel needs have changed over time. So it was important to him to that he organize a small, interested group of attendees, following a public information presentation in Eau Claire regarding the newly organized Midwest Regional Rail Initiative, an organization involving nine Midwest states, Amtrak, and the Federal Railroad Administration and charged with developing a passenger rail system in the Midwest.

The WCWRC has met every month since that 1999 start, and by 2002, Owen had spearheaded meetings and discussions with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation which resulted in commissioning a nationally recognized rail consultant to study our area and make recommendations. The consultant’s report made it clear that a route including Eau Claire should be a part of that system.

Although we have not yet secured our train, it is inevitable that we will, and when that day arrives, it will be in great part due to Owen’s dedication and influence.

Personally, I enjoyed working with Owen on the development of the proposed Eau Claire Transportation Center, a new passenger rail depot which will include interchange with all others modes of transportation at the same site. His encouragement and support was truly appreciated.

But above all, we remember a modest and humble man who never talked of his own accomplishments, but was always quick to recognize those of others. He was a good friend and we will miss him very much.”

Press Conference on High Speed Rail Alternative Selection draft Report

Wednesday, January 11
10:00 a.m., Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce

The West Central Wisconsin Rail Coalition will hold a Press Conference to release details of its request to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) that the federal agency reject a preliminary recommendation drafted by the Minnesota Department of Transportation to select the existing Amtrak line via La Crosse as the sole route to be considered for future High Speed Rail between Chicago, Milwaukee and the Twin Cities.

The Coalition will present evidence that Wisconsin citizens were inappropriately left out of the decision making process; that the report contains serious errors, omissions and inconsistencies that adversely affected consideration of routes via West Central Wisconsin, and that the report’s conclusion designating only one route is not supported by the actual details in the report itself. Leaders of the Coalition assert that the West Central Wisconsin route is still very viable as a route for passenger rail service, and that this decision is too important for it to be made by the transportation department of another state.

Thursday, January 12, is the final day for the public to comment on the report’s preliminary recommendation, so the Coalition is seeking to get information out to citizens who may wish to provide their own input to MnDOT/FRA.

More information on the study:Project website

The public may submit comments by (deadline January 12):
• Email:
• Fax: 651-366-4248
• Phone (leaving a recorded message): 651-366-3199
• Mail: Minnesota Department of Transportation
Passenger Rail Office
Mail Stop 480
395 John Ireland Boulevard
St. Paul, MN 55155

Gateway Corridor Open House: Thursday, July 21, in Eau Claire

From The Gateway Corridor Commission is conducting a series of open houses this month to present to the public eight revised transit options, as well as possible station locations in the corridor, from downtown Minneapolis through Saint Paul and east to Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

The Eau Claire meeting will be 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, July 21, at the Clairemont Campus of Chippewa Valley Technical College, 620 W. Clairemont Avenue.

NOTE ROOM CHANGE: Due to construction, the open house will be held in Room 230/233 on the 2nd Floor. Visitor parking is located on the west side of the building; follow the “Alternate Entrance” signs. There will be a presentation at 5:30 p.m.

The Commission is currently undertaking a study of transit options for local transportation between Minneapolis/St. Paul and Eau Claire, through Washington County, Hudson, Menomonie and other intermediate communities. Click here for more information about the corridor.

Update: federal funding for high-speed rail eliminated

From a letter to members of the National Association of Railroad Passengers , April 13, 2011

On Monday NARP wrote to tell you that a temporary funding bill slashed $1.5 billion from the successful and highly oversubscribed high-speed rail grant program, calling it a step in the wrong direction. Yesterday, however, congressional appropriators revealed details on the budget agreement between the House and the Senate, and the news is much worse than originally reported.

Congress will be eliminating all high-speed rail investment from the 2011 budget, and will actually take back $400 million in FY2010 high-speed money. That adds up to a total of $2.9 billion in cuts to the popular program. The hits don’t stop there—Congress will chop $128 million from Amtrak’s budget for capital improvements and debt service, and $502 million from New Starts transit funding (as compared to last year’s budget).

This is a big setback for the American public, who stood to benefit greatly from this investment in modernized train service. The high-speed rail program had found itself caught-up in political gamesmanship, culminating in the newly-elected governor of Florida rejecting high-speed rail money. However, last week 24 states (along with the District of Columbia and Amtrak) submitted 98 passenger train projects totaling almost $10 billion. That’s half of the United States, representing a vast majority of its population. Applicants included 12 Republican governors—including Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin, who had previously turned down high-speed rail funds—signaling a truly bipartisan enthusiasm for this important, jobs-creating program. The public is also eager for more trains, having driven Amtrak to a 17th straight month of growth in ridership and putting the passenger carrier on track for yet another annual ridership record.

We cannot let this setback dissuade us from fighting for what we know to be right.

The budget battle for 2012 begins now. By pushing for adoption of the President’s 6 year, $53 billion plan for high- and higher-speed intercity trains, we can remove the year-to-year budgetary seesaw that has hindered Amtrak’s growth for so many decades. If America is going to deal with steadily-rising gas prices, a stagnant manufacturing and construction industry, and a rapidly growing population, we will need to invest in passenger trains.

Thank you for your continued work in this important struggle. Together we can bring about a modern train network that provides a travel choice Americans want.

Sean Jeans-Gail
Vice President

For up to date Washington information, visit NARP’s hotline page.

Public Open Houses Planned for St. Paul-Eau Claire Gateway Corridor

As part of a transit alternatives study now underway, public open houses are coming up at four locations along the Gateway Corridor during the coming days, including sessions in Hudson and Eau Claire in West Central Wisconsin, as well as St. Paul and Woodbury in Minnesota.

The Eau Claire meeting is Tuesday, March 1, 5:30-7:30 p.m. at CVTC’s Clairemont Campus, and the Hudson meeting is Wednesday, March 2, 5:00-7:00 p.m. at the St. Croix County Government Center.

The Gateway Corridor Commission’s study is looking at several possible routes and modes for public transportation from St. Paul, through the East Metro counties of Ramsey and Washington, to Hudson, Menomonie and Eau Claire. Click here for more details about the meetings and the study.